Our view: Keys to timely results
The June 5 primary election has made one thing clear above all others — people want immediate results.
Not half the results tabulated on election night. Not an additional 5,000 votes counted days later. They want all the votes, or enough of them that the few remaining uncounted provisional ballots would sway no contest.
We didn’t get that June 5. In fact, we haven’t gotten good election night results in several years.
Every two years voters take up the same hue and cry, questioning the local elections office and demanding faster results.
This situation isn’t going to change. The implementation of the Voter’s Choice Act, which sent a mail-in ballot to every registered Nevada County voter, will only cement this pattern.
This problem isn’t any one person or office’s fault, but a few key players can ensure we get more timely results.
After all, the Board of Supervisors was told the Voter’s Choice Act would lead to quicker vote tallies because the county would have seven vote centers, as opposed to almost 50 precinct polling places.
And we did get those faster returns. Greg Diaz, the county’s clerk-recorder/registrar of voters, said this week he’d certify the June 5 election results some two weeks earlier than usual.
That’s little comfort to the candidates who have been biting their nails since June 5.
A majority of people voted by mail before the Voter’s Choice Act was implemented, which arguably increases the time it takes to count ballots. Mailing every registered voter a ballot will only lengthen the time needed to tally votes.
More elections workers, and the necessary equipment, are needed if we want a quick tally. And that means more money.
That request is likely to be a hard pill to swallow for supervisors, who already shelled out $258,000 on top of regular election expenses to implement the Voter’s Choice Act.
You could argue that voters should cast their ballots early if they want a quick vote count. A better argument is that people should hold onto their ballots as long as possible, learning as much about the candidates and issues as they can before casting their vote.
It’s the people’s responsibility to vote. It’s the elections office’s responsibility to quickly tally those votes. Just because counties have 30 days to certify their votes doesn’t mean they should use all of them, or even half.
This isn’t a problem Nevada County faces alone. The other four counties that implemented the Voter’s Choice Act also took weeks to tally their ballots. Some still are counting.
These five counties, including ours, underwent an experiment, a pilot program, and there’s always going to be kinks that need fixing.
We’ve already seen positives from the change. Turnout in an off-year, primary election reached 57.03 percent. That’s higher than the 2010 (51.09 percent) and 2014 (44.58 percent) primaries.
But there’s plenty to gripe about as well. The elections office may have floated the concept of the Voter’s Choice Act over a year ago, but plenty of folks still had little to no idea it was happening or how it would impact voting. There must be better outreach.
Elections officials also must communicate with supervisors earlier. Let’s avoid another public dustup between Diaz and supervisors.
And let’s decide, as a community, our priorities. Are we willing to pay more to get faster results? Is it possible to process paper ballots any faster since they’re more labor intensive? Can we shift current dollars to speed up the process?
Diaz touted that 95 percent of the votes came through the mail, which means we spent a lot of money on seven vote centers for 5 percent of voters.
We’ve now got a good sense of how the Voter’s Choice Act works in our county. Let’s make some tweaks to improve it before November, and educate more people about it.
And just maybe we can get some results.
Our View is the consensus opinion of The Union Editorial Board, a group of editors and writers from The Union, as well as informed community members. Contact the board at EditBoard@TheUnion.com.
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